It wasn’t the ideal start to 2020 for Savannah Marino. Shortly after the new year began, she and her family returned from their grandmother’s house to find their Maltipoo, Byron, was missing from their Houston home.
The Marino family stayed up until nearly 3 a.m. searching for Byron before deciding to continue their search in the morning. Byron was microchipped, and the family made sure their contact information was up-to-date and marked Byron as missing in case he was found.
The search continued for another 14 months.
“Always checking wherever we could think of like the Nextdoor app, anything,” Marino told USA TODAY. “We spent countless hours just out there on the street looking for him.”
It was in March 2021 when Marino’s younger sister, Brianna, decided to check the microchip information once again. However, when she did, the family’s information was no longer registered with Byron.
“Somebody else’s name came up, and it said this microchip is already registered to this new owner,” Savannah Marino said. “We’re like, ‘Whoa, wait. What’s going on here?’”
The family dug further into why the microchip belonged to someone else and discovered Byron had been found in February 2020. He was given to a new family that same month.
Byron’s microchip was registered through Michelson Found Animals. Savannah Marino’s father contacted the microchip registry company to ask what happened but was told the registry company would not get involved since it was an ownership issue.
Michelson Found Animals did not respond to a request to comment by USA TODAY.
After pressing the company, the family was told the new microchip information was uploaded by Poodle Rescue of Houston. They tried to contact the rescue group multiple times with no immediate answer.
When Poodle Rescue of Houston did contact the family, the Marinos said the organization told them the microchip number submitted belonged to one of their dogs. There were more hurdles the Marinos jumped through before the rescue shelter understood their story. When they discussed the situation, things didn’t go as the family hoped.
“Essentially, they were like, ‘The other family doesn’t want to give him up. Would you accept a puppy instead of Byron?’” Savannah Marino said.
The Marino family declined, and the rescue decided to ask the other family if they would take the puppy. The other family said they wanted to keep Byron, who was renamed.
When Byron was found, Poodle Rescue of Houston told NBC-KPRC Houston they tried to contact the dog’s owners but they were “unreachable.” With no calls returned, Byron was determined to be abandoned.
However, Savannah Marino says her family was never contacted by Poodle Rescue of Houston during those 14 months.
Poodle Rescue of Houston did not respond to multiple requests for comment from USA TODAY.
The Marino family filed a lawsuit on Monday against Poodle Rescue of Houston, Michelson Found Animals, and the new owners of Byron.
The family also requested a temporary restraining order against all defendants and Byron to be returned to the Marino family immediately.
Courtney Gahm-Oldham, an attorney for the Marino family, told USA TODAY that legal action would be taken “if that’s what it takes to reunite the family” with Byron.
“We just want Byron home, that’s all this comes down to,” Savannah Marino said. “Whatever it takes, we’re gonna fight to get Byron home.”
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jord_mendoza.